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The Alternative Energy
Caithness – A Bright Future
Do you think Caithness is only a place of Coastline and Castles, Brochs and beautiful scenery? Well all that may be true but in the land where the ages have seen the picts, vikings and many others pass this way leading up to the present generation of the county living in the nuclear age as shown by Dounreay may be passing into the Alternative Energy Age.
Since the early 1950’s Caithness folk have amongst their numbers scientists and experts in all the fields relevant to nuclear power. The picture in many places is of the highlands as some quaint place steeped in history of clans and castles, Viking battles or Pictish places that abound across the landscape. The constant change and push to be at the forefront of the latest technology in the area is not new. The Broch builders of Caithness and other northerly places were possibly at the forefront of building in their day three thousand years ago. Possibly earlier Caithness may have seen the hunter-gatherers make their first weapons in new ways. Recent finds suggest the mesolithic period over 7000 years ago was already a place where people in the north were taking advantage of the natural resources to be found in the area.
But the Highlands and the Islands have never been easy places to make a living. These were not places for easy living. Ingenuity, cunning and an ability to adapt have been at the forefront of living in places where conditions are difficult especially in winter. Perhaps it explains why so many scientists and inventors have been born in Caithness and other northerly places. The need to make things better and wrest from nature more for less effort have been put to the test down the ages. And often northern Scots have been successful in taking this ingenuity round the globe. A willingness to try new things has continued and as the county sees the rise of alternative energy is one way or another taking it on.
The wind turbines are going up fast now and soon the county will have several in place producing increasing amounts of energy from a source know for thousands of years in the area – the wind. But that may be just the beginning. There is far more to the potential for alternative sources of energy in Caithness and other places around Scottish coasts. No place in Scotland is far from the sea due to the long and straggly coastline. Wind power may be at the forefront at this moment but following on rapidly are other sources that may yet yield far higher prizes and make for a much better source of energy in the future.
Looking at several possibilities for Caithness in particular –
Offshore wave machines may seem like a dream of some wacky scientist and early versions – including one tried at Gills Bay a few years ago suffered from the battering of the sea and did not prove a success. However few inventions were worked out until several had failed. The knowledge gained from the failures has not been lost and in Orkney a new generation of wave machines will soon be tested using state of the art facilities in Stromness, Orkney to monitor the effectiveness of test machines built by a variety of UK and European companies. The monitoring equipment and anchorages for the wave machines is already in place and computers ready to supply results to engineers and scientists. The results will begin to flow very soon and we may see the results around not just Scotland but all over Europe. Caithness and Orkney are well placed to gain great benefits from these alternative sources of energy.
Apart from the heat and power there would be the additional benefit of job creation in the area and less dependence on power from a long way off. A new heat grid system is envisaged for properties in part of Wick that could be extended. A window of opportunity is opening up for wick in this respect that if the timing can be got right might see Wick have a unique heating system in the Highlands. In the next couple of years Scottish Water will replace most of water pipes in Wick in a major capital investment. At that time all of the roads will be opened up to replace the old pipe- work. At that time the new heat system could be installed a fraction of the usual cost.
Elizabeth Marshall, the economic development officer in Caithness thinks this is a real possibility and is working on the detail of how such a project might be funded. With the evidence from the Lerwick project already available this new source of heat might yet reduce power bills for the people of Wick and perhaps elsewhere.
The price of the cells is coming down fast. Wick Harbour Trust has already seen the plans to use the roof of the fish market roof and negotiations are currently ongoing to make this happen. The ongoing experiment that would be conducted will be a test centre to gather more information on the latest cells and how they work in the conditions in Caithness.
The New Harvest
Caithness folk built brochs and castles, invented the fax and many other useful devices and produced engineering answers to complex problems. They currently deal with the complexities of decommissioning nuclear facilities. Farming and fishing may be in the blood but so is science and ingenuity - the Caithness air reeks with it.
Caithness will do it.
Bill Fernie is currently a Highland councillor for Wick West
25 March 05
8 February 05
The chairman of the CEC was named as Lorne MacLeod, an Oban based businessman, who is a director of Scotland's first grid connected community owned windfarm, established at the end of last year on the island of Gigha. Mr MacLeod is a former chief executive of Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise and was director of HIE's Strengthening Communities group. All directors of the CEC are volunteers who do not receive remuneration for their posts.
Items on the board's agenda included a review of community projects seeking CEC investment, with 30 groups from the Highlands and Islands having already expressed interest in community renewable energy generation.
The CEC was developed by HIE to meet the demand for the establishment of community owned small to medium scale wind farms and other forms of renewable energy generation. The main function of the CEC is to provide advice and financial assistance to community groups to help them generate and sell energy.
Mr MacLeod said: "I am pleased to take up the post as chairman of the community energy company, and see one of the main tasks of the company to raise awareness of the support and advice which is available to communities to take forward their own projects.
"The CEC wants to ensure communities throughout the Highlands and Islands gain direct financial benefit from renewable energy and believe ownership is the only way for communities to gain anything near the full income from renewable energy production."
The CEC will provide financial assistance for development costs of community owned schemes, including the costs of establishing an appropriate community group, feasibility work and environmental assessments necessary for a planning application.
It will also assist with the capital costs of a project. This assistance is most likely to take the form of a shareholding that would be bought out after a number of years by the community group using revenues from the established project. As a result the project will become wholly community owned and the CEC will be able to re-invest the capital in further community projects.
Nicholas Gubbins, head of HIE's community regeneration team, said: "I would like to congratulate Lorne and the other directors on their appointment and look forward to the CEC developing and becoming a key resource for people throughout the HIE network area.
"The CEC will merge with HIE's community energy unit (CEU) building on the success of the CEU and complementing the Scottish Executive funded Scottish Community and Household Renewables Initiative.
"The CEC will assist with the development of larger scale community owned renewables as well as continuing with the small scale projects the CEU is already involved with."
For more information on the CEC or the CEU telephone: 01463 244202 or log on to: www.hie.co.uk/community-energy.html
Scottish Community And Householders Renewables Initiative
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Home Power Links
Photovoltaics From Texas Energy
Orkney Renewable Energy Forum
Ground Source Heat Pumps
UK Heat Pump Network
Heat Pump Centre